When eating with family members, friends, or our partner, we will consume on average 44% more food than we do when eating alone.
This is just one of many leading statistics highlighted in studies conducted all over the world looking into the reasons why our waistlines are expanding and what can be done to tackle obesity.
While portion sizes, high fat and sugar content and lack of exercise are considered key factors in weight gain, more and more research is unearthing the link between our waistlines and how we are eating.
The latest study happens to be the “fat suit study” which was conducted by scientists at the Southern Illinois University and has been published in Appetite journal.
The research showed that when eating with others – particularly overweight people – we are more likely to choose unhealthy food options over healthy ones. In fact, participants ate 31.6% more pasta and 43.5% less salad when in the company of an overweight person.
Study leader, Mitsuru Shimizu said: “The goal to eat healthily is deactivated by eating with someone who is overweight.
“Probably, we have an unconscious goal to eat healthily, because we are supposed to, but when eating with an overweight companion, maybe that goal is less activated or deactivated.”
Another leading study conducted back in 1994 by American psychologist John de Castro, showed the impact eating with other people can have on indulgence levels.
The study showed that women ate 13% more when dining with a man (although men’s intake was not affected by the gender of their companion) while eating meals with spouses saw people eat up to 22% more.
Furthermore, when eating with family members and friends, participants ate 23% and 14% more, respectively.
Reasons for this behaviour vary, but a plausible explanation could be linked to how all human beings unconsciously have copycat tendencies.
For example, if you see someone you trust and know well enjoying a certain food, or speaking positively about something they’ve eaten before, you are far more likely to try it yourself.
Plus, it is near impossible to not be affected by what others choose to eat, especially when we are hungry.
Furthermore, in circumstances where food is offered in polite company, we tend to take our lead from others. This means if one person helps themselves to a handful of snacks rather than just a few bites, we too are more likely to do the same.
Do you notice your food choices change depending on the company you keep?